Many raised an eyebrow last week at the news that a building of three-to-four floors at Sliema Ferries is set to become a 15-storey hotel.

The new building would tower over the present residences in Triq San Vinċenz, that currently stand at a three-storey height.

The corner site's frontage, however, is on The Strand, where much higher buildings are allowed and do in fact exist. The adjacent building, for example, goes up to 10 floors.

The developer, Carlo Stivala, explains that his proposal is entirely in line with current planning policies.

The corner site in question.

Speaking to, Mr Stivala notes that the site already received planning approval for a 10-storey residential block in 2018.

“The more recent application is for a larger footprint and is for a hotel,” he says.

“The Planning Authority policy allows extra floors in the case of a hotel - one floor as per policy NHTO 01 while a more recent hotels policy allows for another two floors.”

He also points out that the permit is “subject to a tripartite agreement (between the Planning Authority, the Malta Tourism Authority and the owner) so that in case of change of use from hotel, these extra 3 floors have to be demolished.

Moreover, the minimum internal height allowed for hotel rooms is 2.4m, while in the case of residential units this is 2.6m.

“This accounts for another floor,” explains Mr Stivala.

Until 2020, Mr Stivala formed part of Stivala Group, known for its investment in Sliema and Gżira. He then struck out on his own, receiving properties valued at €81.2 million as part of the divestment.

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Robert Fenech

Robert is curious about the connections that make the world work, and takes a particular interest in the confluence of economy, environment and justice. He can also be found moonlighting as a butler for his big black cat.